IBM to build world’s first universal quantum computing systems

10 April 2017

The Q Lab where IBM is building commercially available universal quantum computing systems.

The Q Lab where IBM is building commercially available universal quantum computing systems. PHOTO: Connie Zhou for IBM

IBM is claiming an industry-first initiative to build commercially available universal quantum computing systems.

Technologies that currently run on classical computers can help find patterns and insights buried in vast amounts of existing data.

But according to IBM, quantum computers will deliver solutions to problems where patterns cannot be seen because the data doesn’t exist, and the possibilities that need to be explored in order to get to the answer are too big for classical computers to process.

IBM intends to build its Q systems to expand the application domain of quantum computing. These along with their associated services will be delivered via the IBM Cloud platform.

A key metric will be the power of a quantum computer expressed by the ‘Quantum Volume’. This, says the company, includes the number of “qubits, quality of quantum operations, qubit connectivity and parallelism”.

As a first step to increase Quantum Volume, IBM aims at constructing commercial systems with ~50 qubits in the next few years to demonstrate capabilities beyond today’s classical systems. It plans to collaborate with key industry partners to develop applications that exploit the quantum speed-up of the systems.

IBM has also released a new API for its ‘Quantum Experience’. This enables developers and programmers to begin building interfaces between its existing five qubit cloud-based quantum and classical computers, without needing a deep background in quantum physics.

In addition, the company has unveiled an upgraded simulator on the Quantum Experience that can model circuits with up to 20 qubits. In the coming months, IBM plans to release a full SDK for users to build simple quantum applications and programs.

“We believe that quantum computing will provide the next powerful set of services delivered via the IBM Cloud platform, and promises to be the next major technology that has the potential to drive a new era of innovation across industries,” says Arvind Krishna, SVP of hybrid cloud and director for IBM Research.